“Yeah is not an affirmation a person uses in court, you and you alone are responsible for your actions.” Duvall playing the title character relishes getting to nail some of the dialogue that screenwriters Nick Schenk (Gran Torino), and Bill Dubuque throw his way.
The Judge is less a courtroom thriller than a family drama set in small town America. The narrative is not particularly original, big city successful lawyer, with a failing marriage and an annoying manner, “this isn’t an act your’e really not a pleasant person” returns to the Indianna town of his youth to bury his mother and defend his father against a murder charge. His father has been a trusted community judge for 42 years who suddenly finds himself charged with murder. The return home proves a catharsis for both him and his estranged family. One of his brothers is slow but highly creative, the super 8 short films confirm this fact. His other brother was thwarted in his career as a major league baseball player by a car accident that left his pitching arm badly damaged. Even his high school sweetheart still looks hot. “Stop staring, I know I look good,” she tells him.
This is small town America as rendered by Hollywood artisans, I’m fairly sure this version of America doesn’t exist. The town Diner magnificently lit to heighten the romantic moments between Downey and Farmiga. The town Courthouse that recalls To Kill a Mockingbird Bob Duvall’s first film made over 50 years ago. The lake shimmering as the sun sets on the water, all gloriously brought to life by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Lincoln, Schindlers List) and Production Designer Mark Ricker (The Help). The evocative score by Thomas Newman is worth the price of admission.
Downey in top form, helped produce The Judge, he delights in mixing the emotional scenes primarily between he and the effortlessly good Duvall, with the comic. He makes lines like “I wish he died instead of mum” funny and sad at the same time. The supporting cast are terrific, Jeremy Strong is particularly good as the young Dale and Farmiga is a perfect match for Downey Jnr.
The Judge is Directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers), it is too long at almost two and a half hours, and the courtroom drama only works as a dramatic arc and nothing else. However those looking for old fashioned, actor driven classical Hollywood narratives will find much to enjoy with The Judge. Fans of Downey Jnr sit in awe of his talent, his delivery of dialogue is peerless.